From a discerning food and drink loving professional who gave up a lucrative career, perhaps on an early mid-life crisis whim, to buy a pub, then set up a micro-brewery. Eventually selling the pub to put everything into what I believed in.
It really has been a long journey, and I've been through many phases and viewpoints along the way. Indeed, I doubt very much I've reached the end of the journey. Moreover, as I think about it, I enjoy the journey I'm on, so I hope really it only ends the day the lid is nailed on my coffin.
A reason for us selling our pub in 2010 was to concentrate more on the type of beer I wanted to make. Beer that was different, beer I believed in, beer to divide opinion and make the world sit up and take notice. Not just micro-brewed beer, made in a shed, by nice people, sold to local pubs with the main differentiation being "it's not fizzy chemical lager" - I did not want to depend on being a little cuddly local brewery that deserved to be liked, just because...
I believed in craft beer.
OK, the term craft beer is controversial. Yes, it has no clear definition. Some hang on to the dictionary definition of craft, failing to realise every single word in the dictionary can have topical or fashionable context that changes it's meaning1
It could be said it is a marketing term. I have no problem admitting it is, but to suggest it is nothing more than a marketing term is unfair to the beer drinkers who understand what is meant by it. Many have called for it's definition to be made clear. I've always said it is dangerous to define it, mainly because it is not a switch, it is not a hard and fast line in the sand.
"The term Craft Beer does mean something. Even if exactly what that is remains debated, it does still mean something, and the number of people to whom it means something is increasing." - I was pleased to see this quote by me in a presentation by Rob Plant of CGA Strategy. In my view they are the only proper industry organisation that actually acknowledge the term means something special to craft beer drinkers.
I now feel betrayed, not by CGA Strategy, they are my friends, but by most of the rest of the beer industry. Even by a certain brewery who have had a significant influence on this special part of the beer world. Even by my own trade organisation, who is trying to suggest every full brewing member is a craft brewer.
I certainly feel defining craft brewing mainly by size of the brewery is in the UK a pointless and meaningless action. Lumping in "Blue F****ng Moon" might be a mistake by some, and used as a useful diversionary tactic by others, but it is not an excuse to use size as a blunt instrument in the definition. We will eventually find those who have the power will redefine the size boundary anyway.
It was inevitable I guess. Eventually there would be enough people wanting to jump on the bandwagon and dilute the meaning. I think the time has about come. Craft beer, as a term, is getting to the dangerous point where it will cease to mean what I believe it to mean.
Hardknott is much more than just a small brewery, much more than just a member of SIBA. We stand for much more than simply a brewer who doesn't use rice or corn to lessen costs. We are all about a lot more than simply brewing beer at its original gravity.
None of these things are what defines beer that is truly different, ground breaking, progressive, innovative, contemporary and individual.
Hardknott is inspired by the concept of being really very different, modern, exploratory, cutting edge and exciting. We might not have always stepped up to the plate, and feel we might have diverted from these goals along the way from time to time, but now we are feeling like we simply have to tackle the latest rounds of dumbing down beer and make our own individual way of it.
So, for me, the term craft beer is dead as far as Hardknott is concerned, and so we shall look for something else to define ourselves by.
Craft beer is dead, but long live Hardknott.
1"Wicked", for instance, did for a while mean "absolutely bloody brilliant" - quite the opposite of something evil.